Rosalía's music is an homage to Flamenco—and a complete reinvention of it. Meet Spain's newest crossover star.
Rosalía at the HoneyLab launch at the Faena Forum.
You could say that Rosalía is the reigning queen of crossover pop. Her hits are catchy, cool and very danceable. But that would understate the art of Rosalía’s music. Because, in fact, her landmark album El Mal Querer—which weaves between flamenco and contemporary urban beats—is a totally new kind of Spanish pop. It earned her critical acclaim (Billboard, NPR and The New York Times all had her as a top artist of 2018) and a spot on the 2019 Coachella lineup. We sat down with the Spanish songstress to discuss her curiosity, inspirations and the musical adventures on her horizons.
El Mal Querer is a wonderful celebration of flamenco styles. What’s your relation to the traditional and the new? ROSALÍA: My music would not make sense without flamenco—it’s my roots, my foundation. But of course my music is also inspired by many other styles: African music, Gregorian chants, R&B.
It’s wonderful how you shift the mood of the songs in the album. It makes for an incredible performance. ROSALÍA: I’ve always been playing music. I played at the worst bars in Barcelona for a free meal and at flamenco bars just because I wanted to practice. The time I spent playing in all these places was a time when I was able to experiment with my stage presence. Then when I studied theater, I was able to work with contemporary dance pieces that made me think about the stage in a different way.
You play so many characters in your music. Did you write the songs with that in mind? ROSALÍA: Yes, I wanted to find the darker chapters of love, but also the bright and beautiful moments of love.
It gives El Mal Querer a beautiful narrative, but it can get pretty dark… ROSALÍA: But in the end you find it! The song ‘A Ningun Hombre’ is the first song I wrote for this project, and it’s the last one on the album. It is the mother song of the album. With its broken harmonies, it has a feeling of vindication.
Tell us about sampling from Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me a River’ in ‘Bagdad.’ ROSALÍA: It’s a tribute to my adolescence. I’ll never forget the video: the window, his face and rain falling as his teardrops. There are other iconic songs from those teenage years that I referenced, like ‘Di Mi Nombre’ that borrows its name from ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child.
What kinds of music or performance styles do you want to explore next? ROSALÍA: I’m always very curious! I want to go to Tokyo. I want to go to Colombia. I want to go to Los Angeles to perform again. I think all my life, all my records, will be about other cultures and encounters with their music.